Kinkade grew up in the state foster care system.

On Thursday, the Mississippi House of Representatives unanimously passed the Fostering Access and Inspiring True Hope (FAITH) Scholarship Program Act, House Bill 1313, along with an amendment on the floor to name the legislation after one of their own, State Rep. Bill Kinkade (R), who grew up in the state foster care system.

HB 1313 provides tuition assistance for attendance at approved postsecondary educational institutions or public workforce training programs to eligible students who were in foster care on or after reaching ages 14 to 25, or who have lived at a qualified residential childcare agency between those ages.

“All of our stories are special and important, and they’re humbling,” Rep. Kinkade said on the House floor. “It’s just what you do with that story, defines who you are. And I’ve taken my story as energy and I’ve turned it into something positive.”

The moment is not lost on the state lawmaker, having come from humble beginnings.

“To go from what I’ve gone through, whatever that might have been, to have a seat in this round room, with these great colleagues, is one of the greatest moments of my life,” Kinkade said.

In the introduction and explanation of House Bill 1313, State Rep. Richard Bennett (R) talked on the importance of the bill.

Rep. Richard Bennett

Bennett said that at one point in time, there were more kids in foster care in Hancock County than in Atlanta, Georgia. Fortunately, however, those numbers have come down, he said.

“I probably deal with more foster care issues more than anything else I do as a Legislator outside of this body when I’m at home,” Rep. Bennett told his colleagues. “To me, this is one of the most important pieces of legislation that I’ve handled or that I’ve sponsored since I’ve been here. It’s something that is deeply important to me. I want the kids out there in foster care to know that we care.”

Bennett, the House Education Chairman, said that while there are political differences in the chamber, every lawmaker understands the importance of this issue.

“Philosophically, we may disagree, we may argue, we may cuss each other, but I can tell you – this is a body that cares. They really do, even though we come from different backgrounds,” Bennett continued.

The number of scholarships provided in the act would be limited to 150 new recipients per year until the program reaches a maximum of 900 scholarship recipients. The legislation would also require approved postsecondary educational institutions to provide summer and holiday room and board for recipients of the scholarship.

If enacted, the act would take effect after July 1, 2022.